Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mason Proffit

Recommended by Sean MacNair...

"Movin' Toward Happiness" 1971

Based in Chicago, Mason Proffit played a style of country-rock that owed less to the more pop-oriented style of L.A. bands like Poco than it did to the newly bluegrass-happy Grateful Dead of American Beauty and its emerging offshoot, the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Despite the pedal steel guitar, fiddle, banjo, and Dobro, the Talbot brothers, who led the group, were less about a new Nashville than about a fusion of the Old West with hippiedom. They lamented the plight of Native Americans in "Flying Arrow," and while they could pick a mean hoedown on "Old Joe Clark," their version somehow managed to express antiwar sentiments. They recognized the connection between the cowboy myth and the independent spirit of truck drivers, and they managed to mix it all in with a sort of primitive Christianity. In this, they were very much of their time. Mike Cameron's "Good Friend of Mary's" fit into the emerging Jesus cult that identified the Christian savior as a kind of proto-hippie, preaching peace and love while wandering the country in long hair and sandals, and the Talbots sang it with their warm tenor harmony in complete sincerity. Such music wasn't going to make it far out of the early '70s, but in 1971 it was perfectly appealing, and Movin' Toward Happiness managed to make the national charts despite being released on the band's own label, suggesting that they had the potential to appeal beyond a cult. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide

"Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream" 1971

Though this album sank without a trace when it was released, time has been kind to Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, and it is now hailed as a work of genius. Justifiably so, since every track is proof of a band with wonderful instincts for melody and how to frame a musical idea. Mason Proffit was an ensemble that played a blend of music that was more country than rock, with occasional folk and blues influences to make things interesting. Though a few of their songs were straightforward love songs and celebrations of country virtues, many were uncommonly sophisticated for 1971. The song "Jewel" is a pure tearjerker, a sad tale of a young black woman who is used and abandoned by a wealthy white man. The tragic story is set to a weeping steel guitar and is sung in a voice that sounds anguished, and it is a marvelously affecting track. The title track and "Eugene Pratt" are noteworthy for their gentle insistence that something is wrong with the society in which we live, and something should be done about it immediately. Other bands were experimenting with country-rock but never achieved this subtlety and grace, and there was a whole genre of protest music which lacked those same two attributes. The fact that both were in the same package, but were ignored at the time that they were released, is just a darn shame. This band's catalog cries out for a re-evaluation and re-release, starting with this album. ~ Richard Foss, All Music Guide

"Rockfish Crossing" 1972

Mason Proffit earned a major-label contract with Warner Bros. Records in 1972 after its second and third albums, Movin' Toward Happiness and Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, both made the charts in 1971 despite being released on small independent labels. Warner probably thought it was getting in on the country-rock trend already receiving national exposure via the Flying Burrito Brothers on A&M and Poco on Epic, and it might well have worked out that way. Rockfish Crossing, the group's Warner debut, was an accomplished blend of country and rock on which the Talbot brothers, who led the band, sang pure harmonies on folk-rock songs, played convincing country hoedowns, covered country standards like "You Win Again," and even included some timely social consciousness in "Were You There," with its references to My Lai and Wounded Knee. They dressed up in Western gear on the album cover like 19th century desperadoes, Civil War soldiers, and buffalo hunters. It's hard to say why this appealing and apparently trendy package wasn't successful, but Rockfish Crossing, unlike its two predecessors, didn't sell well enough to make the charts, much less expanding Mason Proffit's following. The country-rock hybrid was a delicate mixture, one not really perfected until the Eagles did it a little later. (Neither the Flying Burrito Brothers nor Poco actually sold records in significant quantities.) It may be that Mason Proffit, despite earlier indications, simply fell between the stools of being too country for the rock audience and too rock for the country audience. But the group's music was an accomplished blend of the two styles. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide

"Bare Back Rider" 1973

Mason Proffit's second major-label album and fifth album overall was similar in construction to its predecessor, Rockfish Crossing. Once again, the Talbot brothers and their supporting players turned in a combination of effective originals that touched on subjects from romance to politics with some enthusiastically performed country covers, notably a version of "Setting the Woods on Fire" that sounded like a deliberate attempt to impersonate Jerry Lee Lewis and featured a furious kazoo solo. The political element came out in "Black September/Belfast," with its reflections on Northern Ireland and Vietnam. You'd have thought that music this impressive could get a hearing, but Mason Proffit appeared at a time when music fans were more polarized than musicians, not only by music but by politics and culture. Despite the band's evident affection for traditional country music, their left-wing political stance and status as hippie rock musicians meant they could never be accepted in Nashville. And their music was too overtly country for them to score a pop hit. Thus, they were doomed to appeal only on the country-rock-oriented Los Angeles club scene and to some music critics. Bare Back Rider did a little better than Rockfish Crossing had, even scraping into the charts for a couple of weeks, but that wasn't the level of success a major label expected, and Mason Proffit was forced to hang up its spurs. ~ William Ruhlmann, All Music Guide


Blogger chuckmyr said...

This one of my all time favorite bands, I was able to see them 10 or 12 times. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream is my favorite album by the group although all are good. Mason Proffit's music is a must have. THANKS for the great post.

25 December, 2006 02:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good music! I have never listened to this group.
Can you post their first album:
"Wanted! Mason Proffitt"?

25 December, 2006 06:38  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you again for "Wanted!"

26 December, 2006 02:53  
Blogger yors said...

Just got through ripping all these gems, and I suppose, I can relax a bit and saviour them in due time...I also scanned the entire LP's front, back & inside's...let me know if you want a copy of the images.

27 December, 2006 12:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just found your site and its great!!
thank you for some great music
especially the mason proffit

sad thing is tho
the bareback rider and rockfish crossing files are gone
any chance for a re up?
would greatly be appreciated.


19 June, 2007 12:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just found your site..its great!!
thanks for some great music expeacially the mason proffit
sad thing is the bareback rider and rockfish crossing have been deleted
any chance for a re-up? would be greatly appreacied

19 June, 2007 12:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just found you - great stuff - sorry that I missed the last three MP LPs, but I'll be watching for them to (hopefully) return!

Thanks again!

21 August, 2007 15:41  
Blogger whadefu said...

hi, I know this is an old post by you but all the Mason Proffit that are here are no longer on sendspace, very few of your downloads are dead even the old ones, that it is a pity these are not there:

Movin' Toward Happiness
Bare Back Rider
Rockfish Crossing
Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream

if you ever relink I would love it...

thanx for all your hard work on this blog, you are a star !!

23 April, 2008 23:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the best 60-mid 70s groups to bring a Christian/Anti-war approach to the Vietnam war era in particular. "Dream" is loaded with it,but in most of their albums at least one or two songs are representative of it. Both lead singers (the Talbot Bros) went on to careers in more mainline Christian music.

07 May, 2008 03:43  
Anonymous TerryDavid57 said...

Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream by Mason Proffit is one of the greatest Country Rock albums of all time. Anyone growing up in 70's America, that was an intelligent peace loving hippie of that era,(I was 14 in 1971)was blown away at the beauty and spirituality of this classic Country Rock gem. I love this album! It is timeless.

31 January, 2011 09:29  

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